Cosplay or copycat?

We have seen from some of the previous blogs that copyright law steps in when there has been blatant copying of one game in creating another game, but what about taking the characters themselves out of the game and into the real world?

Cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, and is usually focused on those characters from the Japanese genres of manga or anime. it is a common practice at many comicons that the vast majority of those attending take the opportunity to dress up as their favorite characters, with many conventions now holding competitions for the best look-a-likes.

Image result for cosplay

A couple cosplaying as Wonder Woman and Batman. Other examples can be seen here

But if you were to dress up as your favorite character, this is not necessarily a cheap feat. If you are really going to do the character justice you need a lot of supplies: clothing, make-up, wigs, weapons, accessories, footwear, extra padding, armour details…the list can go on and on especially if you are trying to recreate a character from comics or video games. Now in the wonderful digital age in which we live, the internet has made all of the above easily accessible. The main question however will be whether or not you can afford to buy it all: If we decided to stick it out with our Dark Knight above, this could set a person back around £250. You’ll look awesome, but probably won’t be able to afford any other clothing for the foreseeable future.

So why not make your own?

I’ll admit it right now: I love a bit of dressing up. Any chance to wear fancy dress and quite frankly I’m sold. However, I am also really, really, really tight-fisted when it comes to my money and so could never justify to myself spending a lot of money on an outfit I’ll most likely only wear once (twice if i’m really lucky!). Creating your own costume is easier and usually cheaper than buying one ready made, especially if you are dressing up for a bit of fun at a convention or as a party troupe. However some of these cosplay competitions are a big deal for those who compete: While cash prizes are rare, the opportunity to win trophies, photography sessions and even meet-and-greet passes with the convention guests, are all big prizes to those fans who compete. In order to win once in a lifetime opportunities such as those awarded at these competitions, your costume must be on point: My Wonder Woman t-shirt, blue skirt and silver bangles will not be enough.

But does making your own count as copyright infringement? In short, no. If you are creating a costume purely for your own enjoyment then it would most likely not be covered by copyright infringement, as you are not causing any financial risk to the original owners. I could take this time to try and explain the implications of design rights within the fashion industry but that would be an entirely new blog post!

What if you made one for a friend?

Now this is where things could potentially be a problem. If you enjoy making the costumes, you may have a friend who asks you to create a costume for them of a particular character as the entire feat is too complicated for them. Based on the financial risk to the original owners, whether this could be copyright infringement rests heavily on whether or not they pay you for the work, and, almost more weighty, is whether this becomes a business for you. If your friend offers to pay you for the materials and time to make the costume, then it could be seen that you are taking money away from the original owner of the character and the costume. While this is extreme, it could become a more pressing issue if you were to do this for lots of friends…so much so that you would say that it is your work and it clearly had a commercial gain to it all.

Final verdict?

When it is clear that your hobby has now become a commercial enterprise, it is probably best to seek a license to use the image from the original owner (such as DC, Marvel or Square Enix for example) in order to protect yourself from a very nasty infringement claim being brought against you. While this may seem like a bit of an effort, it is best to cover your back rather than risk bankrupting yourself over something as minor as a winged cape.

Other than that, craft to your heart’s content my fellow geeks! I shall see you at a convention near you.

T xx

 

Advertisements

Intellectual Property Law

This is intended to be a very brief introduction to Intellectual Property Law, so as to familiarise yourself with what my future blogs will touch on and some of the issues that they raise.

What is it?

Intellectual property law is a wide umbrella term that is used to encompass many different aspects of the creative world. In short, intellectual property law aims to protect the expression of creative work in it’s many varying forms. Many of them do overlap so that alone can raise confusion! A little bit of the basics:

Copyright Law

This area of IP is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. It is defined under Section 1, subsection 1 as being a property right which subsists in the following descriptions of work: (a)original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, (b)sound recordings, films  broadcasts, and (c)the typographical arrangement of published editions. In layman’s terms, if you have an idea and have expressed it as a book, a drawing or a song, then that is automatically protected by copyright law and as such, no one can steal your idea and pass it off as your own.

Patents

Patents relate to inventions. Anything that an inventor creates can be protected by a patent. Under Section 1, subsection 1 of the Patents Act 1977 a patent may be granted only for an invention if the following conditions are satisfied: (a) the invention is new, (b) it involves an inventive step (i.e is not simply an ‘upgrade’ on a current invention) and (c) it is capable of industrial application (i.e can the invention actually be used in everyday life). There are however some exceptions (S.2) such as a discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method; a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or any other aesthetic creation; a scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a program for a computer; the presentation of information.

Design Rights

These are closely linked to Patents and are concerned with protecting the overall shape and appearance of a particular object. This type of protection is automatic and last for either  10 years after it was first sold or 15 years after it was created, whichever is earliest. If you wish to protect your design for longer, there is still a formal registration procedure available as long as your design meets the criteria; be new; not be offensive (such as featuring graphic images or words); be your own intellectual property; not make use of protected emblems or flags (Olympic rings, for example); and must not be an invention or how a product works (you’ll need a patent instead!). If the design meets all these criteria, then a registered design right will protect it for 25 years, with a renewal needed every 5 years.

Why is it needed?

Without getting too bugged down in the legal theory surrounding IP Law, it is needed in order to protect a persons’ creative expression. An artist can protect their paintings, a writer can protect their novel and a musician can protect their albums. Personally, I find IP Law fascinating, because it is to some extent allowing people to protect their own ideas and creative outlets in a more theological manner than strict property law. For example, if I were to write a book, and someone was to steal the physical copy of the book, that would be a crime for stealing my property. But if someone was to steal the overall story, publishing the entire story under their own authorship name, then that would be a crime for stealing my intellectual property and my creative expression. In short, it prevents someone taking credit for work that someone else has done.

Why the fascination?

I have always been surrounded by very creative people: My father is a drummer, so I was brought up surrounded by musical instruments and musical scores. My mother is a photographer and studied as a journalist, so I think that is where my love of writing stemmed from. From as long as I can remember, I have been a reader. My main goal in life is to have a personal collection of books that rivals the British Library! However, I can just about draw stick men, my photographs are always blurry and the closest I got to mastering an instrument was the recorder when I was 8. I found that my true calling was in the academics, and it was during my time at law school I discovered a way of using academic means to help protect creative outlets.

This subject is easily the marmite of the legal world: You either love IP or you hate it. And I absolutely adore it.

I hope this brief introduction has helped you understand the basics of what I will discuss throughout this blog, and I hope I can instill some of my passion in you as you read.

T xx